They’re simply too good. Better to close your eyes and carry on with your own work.


Before I begin this review, I have to make a small confession. I have never read Michel Houellebecq’s books. This is odd, I concede, since Houellebecq is considered a great contemporary author, and one cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work. His books have been recommended to me ever since 1998, most often “The Elementary Particles,” by one friend in particular, who says the same thing every time I see him. You have to read “The Elementary Particles,” he tells me, it’s awesome, the best book I’ve ever read. Several times I’ve been on the verge of heeding his advice, plucking “The Elementary Particles” from its place on my shelf and considering it for a while, though always returning it unread. The resistance to starting a book by Houellebecq is too great. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, though I do have a suspicion, because the same thing goes for the films of Lars von Trier: When “Antichrist” came out I couldn’t bring myself to see it, neither in the cinema nor at home on the DVD I eventually bought, which remains in its box unwatched. They’re simply too good. What prevents me from reading Houellebecq and watching von Trier is a kind of envy — not that I begrudge them success, but by reading the books and watching the films I would be reminded of how excellent a work of art can be, and of how far beneath that level my own work is. Such a reminder, which can be crushing, is something I shield myself from by ignoring Houellebecq’s books and von Trier’s films. That may sound strange, and yet it can hardly be unusual. If you’re a carpenter, for instance, and you keep hearing about the amazing work of another carpenter, you’re not necessarily going to seek it out, because what would be the good of having it confirmed that there is a level of excellence to which you may never aspire? Better to close your eyes and carry on with your own work, pretending the master carpenter doesn’t exist.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from his review of Michel Houellebecq’s “Submission

Since the emergence of the six volumes of My Struggle, which began in 2009 and continues as the books are translated into dozens of languages, Karl Ove Knausgaard, 46, has become one of the 21st century’s greatest literary sensations. […] It was jarring to think that this unassuming guy, driving a scuffed van cluttered with toys, old CDs and a baby seat, is quite probably in line to receive a Nobel Prize in literature for his epic saga of what he describes as “the tormented inner life of one male.”

~ Liesl Schillinger, Why Karl Ove Knausgaard Can’t Stop Writing

Amateurs. Seeking mastery? Here’s our Truth.


TRUTH. In a second.

He’s the spark for this share.  Greg Cowles, editor of the NY Times Book Review, reviews Mary Karr’s new book The Art of Memoir.  One sentence in his review (also titled The Art of Memoir) summarizes his thoughts on the book:

It is not, alas, a very good book. Repetitive, unorganized, unsure of its audience or tone, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a how-to guide or a work of critical analysis.

Here’s my review of the book review in fewer words: BAH!

Now on to the Truth, our Truth, Truth for anyone seeking mastery of anything – with the most illuminating excerpt from Karr’s new book.

[Read more…]

Burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be


I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

“No artist is pleased.”

“But then there is no satisfaction?”

“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

~ Agnes de Mille, The Life and Work of Martha Graham

Credits: Quote Source: Brainpickings. Image: Your Eyes Blaze Out

Here it is. The Beacon. For us. The Amateurs.


A paragraph from Lucas’ first chapter, “The Value of Style,” will suffice to render his point of view, with its fine sense of perspective and proportion, plain: It is unlikely that many of us will be famous, or even remembered. But not less important than the brilliant few that lead a nation or a literature to fresh achievements, are the unknown many whose patient efforts keep the world from running backward; who guard and maintain the ancient values, even if they do not conquer new; whose inconspicuous triumph it is to pass on what they inherited from their fathers, unimpaired and undiminished, to their sons. Enough, for almost all of us, if we can hand on the torch, and not let it down; content to win the affection, if it may be, of a few who know us and to be forgotten when they in their turn have vanished. The destiny of mankind is not governed wholly by its “stars.”

~ Joseph Epstein, A Literary Education and Other Essays

Photo: Lachlan von Nubia


(I Want to) x (26) + BAM!


Psychoanalytical musings of Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010).



SMWI*: Your morning, your noon and night

They say this far and not further
They draw lines and call it the limit
They tell you dreamers can’t be doers
And that every Road has been walked before
But when it is what every fibre of your being craves
When it is your all
Your Morning, Your Noon, and Night
When it is what frustrates you
And rewards you
When it is what you fight for
What you lose sleep and sometimes your mind for
When it is the very fire within you
When it is your greatest strength
And your one weakness
When it born not of need
Not even of desire
But of raw passion
How can it ever be enough?
How can there ever be an end?
They say the sky is the limit
Little do they know
You don’t stop at the limit
You start from it.
Born of Passion

SMWI* = Saturday Morning Work-Out Inspiration


The morning is the best time


The dirt resists you.  It is very hard to make the earth your own.  I’ve done much less to try to make it mine.  All my association with it is a kind of freedom.  Yet it’s hard to live at the ranch.  When I first came here I had to go 70 miles on a dirt road for supplies.  Nobody would go by in two weeks.  I thought the ranch would be good for me because nothing can grow here and I wouldn’t be able to use up my time gardening.  But I got tired of canned vegetables so now I grow everything I need for the year at Abiquiu.  I like to get up when the dawn comes.  The dogs start talking to me and I like to make a fire and maybe some tea and then sit in bed and watch the sun come up.  The morning is the best time, there are no people around.  My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it.

~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Credits: Quote – Thank you Rob Firchau @ The Hammock Papers. Image: Sky Above The Clouds IV by Georgia O’Keeffe from mbell

Salieri. It is not up to you whether you fly or fall.


In Mozart’s music, Salieri recognizes something divinely inspired, absolute, and perfect. But what he hears ruins him. Confronted by this beauty beyond his ability to achieve, Salieri suffers his own talent and success in agony. “Thirty years of being called ‘distinguished’ by people incapable of distinguishing!” he cries, as the Viennese cheer him, while casually disregarding the genius in their midst. “If I cannot be Mozart then I do not wish to be anything.” He gets his wish. Mozart is posthumously declared immortal, and Salieri, still alive, is utterly forgotten, the patron saint of the undistinguished. In his last line, the old, discarded court composer addresses the modern audience directly, all those who, like him, are not worth listening to. “Mediocrities everywhere—now and to come—I absolve you all,” he says, sympathizing with our failure to be Mozart. […]

The Salieri that Shaffer created hears with the ears of history; he knows all along what only later listeners could know. When Mozart arrived in Vienna in 1781, his talent was obvious and undeniable, but his genius was still a matter of opinion. He wasn’t yet Mozart. Peter Shaffer stacked the deck against Salieri by giving his self-doubts the weight of historical certainty. Because Salieri knows Mozart is a genius, his own failure then seems inevitable. But the real weight that he and every artist—every person who strives for greatness—suffers is the weight of not knowing. You must find in yourself the courage to leap off the cliff. Yet it is not up to you whether you fly or fall.

~ Glen Kurtz, Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music

Image Credit: vjmorton


Fire Painter

French Canadian artist Steve Spazuk is from Lery, Quebec. Here’s his bio from

For the past 14 years, Spazuk has developed and perfected a unique technique that allows him to use the flame of a candle or the flame of a torch as a pencil to create his paintings with trails of soot. Using various tools, he intuitively sculpt the plumes of soot left behind in response to the shapes that appear on the canvas.

Spontaneity and chance are the heart and soul of his creative process. He does not censor. He does not direct. Spazuk opens himself to the experience. This in-the-moment creative practice coupled with the fluidity of the soot, creates a torrent of images, shadows and light. Fuelled by the quest of a perfect shape that has yet to materialize, he concentrate in a meditative act and surrender to capture the immediacy of the moment on canvas.

The human body fascinates him. Bodies in a perpetual metamorphosis are the language with which he express his thoughts on the human condition: emotions, opinions, stories that are born of his uncensored psyche. Spazuk often works piece by piece, collecting a multitude of unique elements that he assembles into mosaics.  Entities that, once grouped together, afford a different meaning and provide a new perspective that is both novel and complementary. He sees fragments of things, events, people, as a powerful metaphor of modern life and, even more so, of the way we perceive things through our senses and our minds. His work expresses how every one of us is a constituent fragment of the human community.

Check out an interview with Steve Spazuk and more of his work here.

Be sure to check out his website and his gallery of portraits here: Steve Spazuk Portraits.  Wow!

Here’s a self-portrait:

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Bethany Gosvener


Bethany Gosvener is a Portland, OR based visual artist.

So here I am.  Doing exactly that,  and freaking out every bit of the way.  Ha.  I’m grateful for those few years of trial and error.  They allowed me time to develop and teach myself a variety of skills.  It may sound odd,  but even I am still shocked to see the work I’m doing.  I can’t believe I had no idea this natural ability was within me.  I am in an endless debt of gratitude to Steven for pushing me,  supporting me.  For loving me through some of the hardest times of my life.  It blows me away. I am so blessed.

Image Source: Jaimejustelaphoto